News: Quick Takes

State Board of Education considers additions to school report cards

Update: The State Board of Education voted in favor of adopting the ESSA draft plan on Sept. 7, with only Board Vice Chairman A.L. “Buddy” Collins voting against it. 

North Carolina report cards measuring school performance may add chronic absenteeism and school climate to gauge success.

State Board of Education members Wednesday discussed the changes to the Every Student Succeeds Act draft plan, including the possibility of adding more measures to the school report cards.

ESSA is essentially the updated version of No Child Left Behind. States are required to form ESSA draft plans and submit them to the U.S. Department of Education for federal funding. The SBE has until Sept. 18 to agree on a draft plan to send to Washington, D.C., for review.

North Carolina’s plan has changed since last month’s board meeting. Gov. Roy Cooper suggested some of the changes and offered the recommendations in a letter to SBE chairman Bill Cobey and N.C. Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Mark Johnson.

Cooper criticized the heavy reliance on standardized testing to evaluate the performance of schools and suggested as alternatives measuring chronic absenteeism and surveying a school’s climate.

“Such a survey would provide more information on how our schools meet students’ non-academic needs and could measure, among other items, the quality and character of student and teacher relationships, students’ and teachers’ safety at school, and the quality of the learning environment in our public schools,” Cooper explained in the letter.

While the alternatives Cooper mentioned aren’t part of the ESSA draft plan, the board may add a paragraph to the draft explaining that it and DPI will continue considering alternative measures such as chronic absenteeism.

“As North Carolina continues to work to improve educational opportunities for all students, the SBE and the State Superintendent will continue the dialogue of determining the feasibility and appropriateness of incorporating some indicators … either in North Carolina’s School Report Cards or in the SBE’s Strategic Plan,” the draft plan reads.

SBE board member Olivia Oxendine wants chronic absenteeism included on the report cards.

“Maybe in the report cards that will keep [chronic absenteeism] in front of us … so that may be a better location for it,” Oxendine said. “We got to have [students] in school or the plan doesn’t matter.”

The board will vote Thursday on adopting the ESSA draft plan.